Iowa. When I began graduate school, I was intellectually raw. My grades reflected my competitive nature and not a commitment to knowledge and understanding. I did not see or understand the importance of ideas.

Thanks to a patient mentor and the rigors of The University of Iowa, I slowly gained knowledge and understanding and a curiosity about ideas.

To my memory, one of the first questions with which I had an honest intellectual struggle, was the question of nature vs. nurture. I remember thinking about the ideas rather than just learning something for a test.

As a psychologist my focus has typically on behavior. Is the behavior caused by nature (our innate genetic make-up) or nurture (our experiences)?  The key word in the question is “or.” Sometimes a behavior may be caused by nature or nurture. What I learned and most people understand is the most common answer is behavior is caused by nature AND nurture.

 In our current environment the debate about homosexuality provides a very good example of the intellectual struggle. Is a homosexuality genetic or is it a choice? Some believe all homosexuals are totally genetically driven and the environment has nothing to do with it. For others homosexuality is  always a personal choice.

I believe the better answer is both. The better answer is nature AND nurture. The genetic drive toward homosexuality is undeniable stronger in some people than in others. The role of choice is stronger in some people than others. But I believe everyone has choice in how they act upon innate sexual urges. Some are harder choices than others.

A thoughtful person will have to be very careful. If you do not believe a person has a choice over sexual urges you open Pandora’s Box for a variety of sexual urges.

Please note carefully my present purpose is not to make an ethical statement about homosexuality. I am simply using the example to show the importance of thinking about and vs. or. I want to develop that thinking with regard to our current crisis.

I have been thinking a lot about the AND vs OR issue with regard to the COVID situation. My descriptions will be exaggerated to make my point.

 We have one side who believes we should not be opening up the country. We are better off with the pain of a deep economic depression than losing one person to the virus. We just need to keep printing money and when the vaccine is developed, we can get back to normal.

On the other hand, we have people who believe their rights are being trampled on. The country should be opened. No masks, no distancing, no more handouts. Get back to normal now. It is too bad if a few people die — but that is the cost of doing business.

I said I was exaggerating, but unfortunately, I am not far from the truth for some people.

The current COVID crisis raises at least two concerns about AND vs. OR.

 First, I think the underlying conditions which contribute to the COVID deaths rate are in some case a factor of genetics AND in some cases a matter of personal responsibility.  Being old, having underlying genetic problems are not the same as choosing to smoke, or being obese, in which case underlying health risks are matters of personal responsibility.

Second, we need people working together to find help for our health concerns AND our economic concerns. Our politicians are fond of the phrase – it’s the economy stupid. I have the strong desire to scream it’s “AND” stupid. The simple-minded easy this or that is not the solution to the complex difficulties we face in today’s world. We need problem solvers, not single-minded demagogues.

People may disagree with me but: we need people who understand most of our big social issues are AND problems — not or problems.

We need people who care about others AND understand the national debt

I want some efficient and effective government services AND ways to pay for them (i.e. taxes)

I want everyone to have the right to own guns AND I do want every possible gun in the hands of just anybody.

I consider myself a citizen of the United States AND the world. I do not think God sees less than everyone.

I only want citizens to vote AND I want every effort to be made to see that people who are citizens get to vote.

I would like to see business have profits AND create jobs AND have well-paid employees AND have safe environments.

I recognize we have church AND state.

I want to help the poor AND in ways that do not reward not working.

Those of you who have followed my blog know my appeal for dialog over diatribe. Today’s topic is a further expression of that concern. People who view the world in terms of OR tend toward diatribe; their way is the only way. People, who understand AND as an important idea, tend more toward dialog. They see many problems as complex with pluses and minus, strengths and weaknesses. I want dialog in the forefront of personal and national debates.

As always, I welcome your comments,

Until next week,




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